Is Max Kepler still trade bait for the Twins?

Off to an incredible start to the season, is Max Kepler still trade bait for the Twins or is he in the long-term picture?
Boston Red Sox v Minnesota Twins
Boston Red Sox v Minnesota Twins / Brace Hemmelgarn/GettyImages

We’re still a ways out from the MLB Trade Deadline, with over two months left before it arrives, but there’s never a bad time to start thinking about the future. In fact, that seems to be the mode teh Minnesota Twins are constantly stuck in, as time after time the team has kicked the can down the road in an effort to set up a future move.

Typically this has to do with prospects or in-house talent, something dans got a taste of twice in the last year. The trade deadline last August was uneventful with the sales pitch being the team would get just as good if not better with plaeyrs returning from injury as it would making a trade.

Fans got the same line this winter, although messaging was less opaque thanks to the team slashing payroll by $30 million. Mitigating mistakes and leaning into frugalness is typically the mode Minnesota operates in, and it begs the question about what that means for the future of Max Kepler with the Twins.

Should the Twins still trade Max Kepler or keep him in the long-term plans?

Early in the offseason it sounded like Kepler was going to get shopped alongside Jorge Polanco in a deal that would net the team a frontline starting pitcher. That never happened — neither Kepler getting traded or the front office owning up to its promise and landing a pitcher.

Instead, Polanco was flipped to Seattle for what’s looking like a top 100 prospect and a salary dump while Kepler was never moved at all. That has ended up working out for the Twins, as Kepler is on a monster tear and has turned into one of the team’s best players.

He hit the IL a few weeks into the season after injuring his knee on Opening Day but ever since returning Kepler has looked like the guy everyone’s been waiting for him to turn into. Kepler is hitting .325/.380/.542 with a .923 OPS and seems to offer a spark at the plate every time Minnesota needs one.

All of this has shifted an eye toward the future, as Kepler is playing his way into a big contract the Twins might not be willing to pay. Just like how the deadline is a ways off, we’re nowhere near settling on a final number for Kepler but he’s set to get a qualifying offer this winter and if he keeps this level of play up there’s no reason for him to take it over a bigger deal.

That circles everyone back to the trade debate: Should Kepler be dangled as bait to improve the roster?

It made sense this winter, but that conversation as lost a lot of luster since he turned a corner offensively. Trading Kepler would net a bigger return than it would have a few months ago, but would it make the roster better?

There’s a pretty firm arguement that it would have the opposite effect, even if the deal landed the Twins the frontline pitcher they still need. It could be a route we see the team take, though, in order to get ahead of needing to pay Kepler this winter.

Right now we’re nowhere near a final decision either way, but it’s likely to be a conversation that doesn’t go away the better Kepler plays and the closer we get to the deadline.

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